Living with an alcoholic is painful and scary. These tips on how to love a boyfriend who drinks too much will help you live with the reality of alcoholism. The more you know, the better able you’ll be to get the support you need.
“My boyfriend has had problems with drinking too much for over five years,” writes Mary on on How to Help an Alcoholic Brother or Sister. “Things reached the worst they ever have around two years ago, when he was regularly brought home by the police, found sleeping under bridges and gone missing for days. Things have since then not been as extreme. My boyfriend goes to work but drinks all the time. Living with an alcoholic isn’t as hard as I thought it would be because he doesn’t abuse me. He just drinks. What can I do to help my boyfriend? I love him but he won’t admit he’s alcoholic.”
The most depressing thing about living with an alcoholic is also the truest thing: you can’t do anything to change or help him. Your boyfriend drinks too much because he has an addiction – a disease – that he can’t control. It is overpowering his reason and ability to think clearly. All you can do is learn how to love and live with an alcoholic, how to take care of yourself, and how to recognize when you need to make a decision about how you want to live your life.
Loving and living with an alcoholic boyfriend doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself in his disease, but it does require you to learn about the pain and struggle of addiction. The more you read and learn about alcoholism, the better able you’ll be to help the man you love and maybe even save your relationship.
Throughout this article, I’ll share different types of resources for understanding what addiction is, living with an alcoholic, and learning where healthy boundaries are. There aren’t any easy tips for how to love a boyfriend who drinks too much, but I’ve found a few ideas that may help.
How to Love and Live With an Alcoholic Boyfriend
In the comment at the beginning of this article, Mary said her boyfriend doesn’t hurt her. Not all girlfriends are this fortunate! If you’re living with an alcoholic who abuses you, learn about the stages of leaving an abusive relationship. You may not be ready to leave – or even think about leaving – but it might be good to know about the cycle of abuse.
The first three tips for living with an alcoholic boyfriend are the most important.
Learn about the disease of alcoholism
Find ways to understand how alcoholics think and why they make the choices they do. The more you know about your boyfriend’s addiction and why he drinks too much, the better equipped you’ll be to love and live with him.
Don’t underestimate the power of this disease. Alcoholism is a very serious addiction, and it destroys lives. Last year I wrote an article called the 10 Benefits of Quitting Drinking…and it made me realize that there is a huge difference between social drinking and alcoholism. You’ll never be able to tell your boyfriend about the benefits of not drinking too much because he is in the grip of a powerful obsession that he can’t control.
Join a support group for people living with alcoholic partners
Don’t navigate the jungle of addiction by yourself. There are too many traps, dangers, and threats! You need to surround yourself with people who understand what it’s like to love and live with a boyfriend who drinks too much. Reading blog posts and online articles about living with an alcoholic is a good way to get information, but it’s not enough.
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Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself is one of my favorite books about living with an alcoholic. In it, Candace Plattor encourages readers to concentrate on taking care of themselves instead of focusing on the alcoholic or addict. She believes the key to changing the reality of addiction is to shift your focus from your loved one’s addiction to your own self-care.
Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself presents a fresh approach to help you get off the roller-coaster chaos of addiction, maintain your own sanity and serenity, and live your best life.
Take care of yourself
Living with an alcoholic boyfriend takes a great deal of energy, strength, and wisdom. One of the most important things to do is take good care of your body, mind, and spirit. Learn how to draw healthy boundaries in your relationship. Find out what enabling or codependency is, and how to stop protecting your boyfriend.
Be determined that your boyfriend’s alcoholism won’t spoil your relationship with your children, your family, or your friends. You can still have a full, interesting, and good life even if you’ll never learn how to help an alcoholic boyfriend stop drinking. Don’t set your heart on reforming him, or helping him stop drinking. You will be unable to do so, not matter how hard you try.
Remember that your boyfriend is not “choosing” to drink
The founding belief of Alcoholics Anonymous is that alcoholism is not a choice. Your boyfriend drinks too much not because he’s voluntarily choosing it, but rather because he has no power. He can’t control his drinking, no matter how much you beg, cry, threaten, or pray.
As an alcoholic, your boyfriend no longer has the power to choose not to drink, so he needs spiritual power to quit drinking. He can’t overcome the disease of alcoholism by himself or through willpower. The only thing he can do is turn to God, admit how powerless he is, and turn his life over to a Higher Power who can save him.
Find out if you’re enabling your boyfriend – and stop crossing the line
In The New Codependency, author Melody Beattie says a lot of codependency is normal behavior. The opposite of codependency is a healthy sense of letting go.
“Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance,” says Beattie. “It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.”
Codependency is about crossing unhealthy lines and boundaries when you love an alcoholic boyfriend. You may do too much, care too much, feel too little, or overly engage with him. You may give too much, and then resent it. In The New Codependency, Beattie describes how to love without becoming codependent or enmeshed with a boyfriend who drinks too much. She shares her own story and empowers readers to step out of the victim role forever.
Avoid telling your boyfriend to stop drinking
In the “For Wives” chapter of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, the authors advise women never to tell their boyfriends or husbands to stop drinking. The irony of living with an alcoholic boyfriend is that you can’t tell him what to do about his drinking. If he sees you as a nag or killjoy, your chance of helping him may be zero. He will feel misunderstood and criticized, which won’t help him stop drinking.
And, be prepared for other addictive behaviors to surface…
“My husband and I fight a lot,” says Kim on What to Do When Your Husband is an Alcoholic. “He drinks for hours, several days a week. When he is sober he is a wonderful, sweet, funny, loving guy. Our fights happen when he has been drinking and I am sober…I hurt my back and was prescribed painkillers, and he’s taken at least half of my prescription each time. Tonight I wanted the half tablet I had left on my nightstand. I asked him about taking my medication, he said yes he took it.”
Let your boyfriend explain his life to people
Whenever possible, let him make his own excuses to his employer, coworkers, family members, neighbors, church community, etc. Don’t protect him, don’t lie to people to cover up his drinking problem.
When you’re living with an alcoholic boyfriend – and you love him – you may feel tempted to cover up for him. But this makes the problem worse. Don’t lie to people who have a right to know where your boyfriend is and what he is doing.
Find healthy ways to deal with your anger and frustration
This goes back to my first tips for living with an alcoholic: get help dealing with your feelings and reactions to your boyfriend’s tendency to drink too much. Find the closest Alcoholics Anonymous group, or the nearest Al-Anon group.
Trying to deal with your boyfriend’s alcoholism on your own is futile, and will set you up for disappointment and despair. Join forces with other women who need help with their alcoholic husbands. Get support, give support. The healthier you get emotionally, spiritually, and socially, the better able you’ll be to help your boyfriend if he decides to start battling his alcoholism.
Reconnect with God
The foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous is spirituality. They believe that an alcoholic is powerless to stop drinking because alcoholism is a disease. Your boyfriend can’t summon the willpower to stop drinking; alcoholics have no choice. This may be hard to understand, but it’s how the disease works.
Your boyfriend needs to decide to turn his life and body over to God (whatever he understands God to be). If you want to truly love and live with your boyfriend, you need to do the same thing.
God really does love you – and He loves your boyfriend, too. What do you think God is doing in your life? Is He active and alive, or quiet and still? Take time to connect with Him. Ask for guidance, wisdom, peace. Fill your mind and soul with His Holy Spirit. Learn who Jesus is, and live in the power of His grace and love.
In Reclaim Your Life: You and the Alcoholic/Addict, Carole Bennett helps people who struggle with the heartache, frustration, confusion, and resentment of living with an alcoholic boyfriend or husband. It’s a wonderful, helpful resource for anyone who needs help navigating the murky waters of addiction.
“When you let go of fear and the need to control, you’ll experience how mysterious, sacred, and interesting Life can be.” – Melody Beattie.
What do you think of these tips on how to love a boyfriend who drinks too much? I welcome your thoughts below. I can’t give advice, but you may find it helpful to share your thoughts on living with an alcoholic.
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Please connect with other women whose boyfriends are struggling with alcoholism, so you can gain strength, comfort, and solidarity.